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Field service experience: Why its more than just satisfying customers’ needs

17 min read
Field service experience encompasses more than ticking off a to-do list for customer satisfaction. Read on to understand how to improve field service experience and optimize it for success.


What is field service customer experience?

 At its core, the field service customer experience is the experience a customer has when a visit is made to their home or their premises. In a B2C setting, this might be a fix to a router or a boiler; in a B2B setting, this might be setting up servers or repairing technical equipment.

The success of field service is often judged by whether a task was completed, or completed in a timely manner. The experience of the customer is often not considered as greatly as the operational data that your brand might be gathering on wait times or issue resolution. Though this data is important, how it’s used can make a big difference in how your customer experiences your brand in their own setting.

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 Why field service customer experience is important

 Field service customer experience is often dismissed as the last option for customer service: providing an in-person visit when an issue can’t be resolved or a customer needs more expertise than can be handled remotely. Another view is that field service is the ultimate option for customer care, where an in-person visit demonstrates how valuable the customer is to your brand.

No matter the view, this high-cost service type can be the make-it-or-break-it factor for customers. It’s easy to categorize field service as a box-ticking exercise for work being completed or a problem being fixed, but the experience around these services can influence whether customers continue their relationship with you.

Field service customer experience in B2C

In a B2C environment, interpersonal trust is a key facet of whether a customer perceives the experience as positive or negative. Allowing a field service agent into your home can require a lot of effort and trust, and a bad experience can very quickly turn a customer off from using your products and services.

What many organizations fail to recognize is that a home visit also represents a high effort for the customer – waiting for the field service person to arrive, which may mean taking time off work or having to reorganize other tasks, and providing access to their home, perhaps moving furniture or vehicles.

Field service customer experience in B2B

In a B2B environment, convenience is vital. The field service customer experience in this type of scenario revolves around whether the experience was smooth and rapid – and whether the job was completed as efficiently as possible. If a customer thinks that your field service was inconvenient, or a waste of time, they’re more likely to seek other alternatives in future.

Field service customer experience in specific industries

For specific industries – such as healthcare, public utilities or government – the approach to field service customer service may vary depending on customer expectations.

For example, in healthcare, customers may seek personal interactions over any other type of customer care option, and forgiveness for a negative customer experience might be higher. For customers using public utilities, there may be more leniency because there are no other service providers – but customer experience can play a larger part in the public perception of the service so it still has ‘brand value’.

Each industry and company needs to develop its own approach to field service customer experience, with customer understanding and feedback at its core.

Field service customer experience as part of the overall customer experience

 As mentioned above, field service customer experience can often be perceived as a last resort or as the pinnacle of customer care. Both of these approaches can lead to issues if this is not what the customer is looking for.

When offering customers various channels to resolve issues or ask questions, each individual brand will have to use a combination of operational and experience data to understand how to approach field service.

In terms of cost for customer care, the lowest cost option – self-service online – might be the preferred approach for your customer base. Using live chat or phoning a contact center requires minimal effort on the part of the customer and costs your business less than sending an in-person field service representative.

Equally, a customer might prefer to have issues resolved by experts that come to examine their products in-situ. This high-cost field service option may be the best way to connect with customers who prefer a personal touch.

Overall satisfaction can be improved by understanding how your customer wants to be approached, and what works best for their needs. The only way to understand which options are preferred is to gather customer feedback effectively and take appropriate action. Many organizations will have to find a balance between high and low-cost channels and customer preferences and potential revenue.

Measuring field service customer experience

 The two best ways of measuring field service customer experience from the customer side is to look at satisfaction and engagement rates.

From a business angle, the operational data (such as response times) is important – but how the customer feels about their field service visit is the most vital for measuring customer experience.

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Field service customer satisfaction

 How satisfied your customers are with their experience isn’t just related to how long an issue took to fix or an install to complete. Your customer’s view on your frontline employees and how the visit went from an emotional standpoint can also affect their satisfaction.

Using customer satisfaction surveys such as CSAT or CES can help you to build an accurate picture of customer satisfaction over time.

You might ask:

  • How satisfied they were with their visit
  • Whether their needs were met
  • How likely they are to recommend that service to others
  • How easy it was to organize their field service visit
  • How helpful they found the frontline employee

Field service customer engagement

How engaged your customers are with your brand can also inform you whether your field service customer experience was good or needs further improvement. How their engagement changes over time can also show you whether your field service input helps to resolve problems or assuage customer concerns.

You might look at:

  • How often customers require issue resolution, and if this decreases after an in-person visit
  • How often customers require an in-person visit
  • How your customers responded to particular frontline employees

Collecting customer feedback and using operational insights 

Getting insights from customer feedback

 Gathering feedback is critical for understanding how the field service customer experience is for your customers – and what you can do to improve.

Most importantly, it’s vital to gather feedback within the context of the complete customer experience, not just within the context of field service.

The best way to gather insights from customers is to:

  • Gather post-field service feedback for immediate feedback
  • Gather regular customer feedback from to understand the customer relationship over time

You can use customer satisfaction surveys to understand customer drivers, and tailor your field service customer experience for improved outcomes.

It’s helpful to not only ask about how the visit was, but how your customer felt about the field service agent themselves. This gives you more information on how effectively your employees are representing your brand. 

Getting insights from O-data

The key to understanding whether field service customer experience has been successful from both your and your customers’ point of view is to look for correlations in your data.

You might already be considering:

  • How many field service visits did you complete in a given time frame?
  • How long did these visits take?
  • How many issues were resolved in those visits?
  • How much does a typical visit cost?
  • How many visits are wasted and could have been solved by telephone or self-service?
  • How many visits end up cancelled/no show by customer/agent arrived outside the proposed time window e.g. too late/early

However, this is only part of the picture that you need to consider. Correlating your operational data with other data and with trends can help you to understand precisely if field service options are the best for your customer base – and worth the cost.

For example, other data you could examine to gather deeper insights into your field service experience includes:

  • Customer satisfaction rates based on feedback immediately post-visit
  • Customer satisfaction rates trending over time
  • Renewal rates over time
  • Repurchase rates over time

This can help you to see if your field service visits are significantly impacting satisfaction for good and bad – and if they are, how you can tailor the experience to improve it further.

How to improve the field service experience

 

Getting insights from front line employees

Your customers’ views on how their experience was are important – but how they match up to your own frontline experience can also be telling.

Your field experience staff and customer care employees are likely to have the closest relationship with your customers. Their feedback on interactions, both post-visit and over time, will help you to build a fuller picture on how field service customer experience can be improved.

When asking your staff to explain O-data – such as how long field service visits took – try to ask for their view, rather than a justification.

For example, you could ask:

  • Why they thought field service visits took the time they did (customer availability, parts required etc.)
  • What time they feel they need to complete field service visits for maximum customer satisfaction
  • What they need to deliver a better service
  • How they view your customer (easy to manage, always rushing etc.)
  • How they think the customer would rate their experience in terms of satisfaction
  • What proportion of visits could have been resolved via a different method?

Gathering this type of feedback helps you to craft a field service customer experience that your team can realistically achieve – not what the customer is demanding unrealistically.

It also helps you to match up the customer experience with the service your team believes they’re providing. If your team is confident that they’re providing a great service but customers are unsatisfied, perhaps more training is required to bring standards up to expectation. Or this might mean better expectation setting for customers so that they have a clear understanding of what the service will provide and within what time frame.

It also helps you to implement improvements that will actually make an impact. For example, if your customer experience management team would like to implement a reward scheme but your on-the-ground staff knows that the customer would better value efficiency over extras, this information could save you time and money.

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Taking action

Understand what works for your customers, not what your team thinks is best

With all of your feedback – both internal and external – gathered, and your O-data insights at hand, you’ll be better able to discern what works for particular customers. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach or just applying what you think will work, you’ll have a data-led method of improving the customer experience. 

Make sure your customer care teams understand your approach

Your customer care team might be working under the assumption that field service options are the “gold standard” of customer care. Management needs to ensure that everyone understands which options are preferred – not just by you, but by your customers – with the data to match.

Change the focus from efficiency to satisfaction

The metric you judge your employees on will become the metric they use to judge success. If, for example, you are keen for field service visits to only take a certain time, your team will likely take shortcuts on providing a satisfactory experience to meet that time goal.

Instead, your parameters for your staff should be focused on satisfaction blended with efficiency. If your customer has extra work to be completed that could be fixed on-site but more time is required, empower your employees to make executive decisions to take the time and go above and beyond. Measuring employee success by customer satisfaction – not purely O-data such as the number of visits completed – will help you to provide a measurably better service to your customers because your people will feel empowered to do so.

Supporting employees in this way tends to drive greater engagement with the role and reduce employee churn in the long run.

Automate your insights

Gathering insights can take time, which can mean your key feedback is lost or delayed past the point of relevancy. Automate your insights by sending automatic customer feedback surveys and frontline feedback requests to your team. This will cut down on precious time, and allow you to overlay O-data for an informed set of actions to take.

Remove a siloed mentality where you can

Field service customer experience isn’t just dependent on the agent going to make the visit. It’s a combination of customer care, relationship health management, and more.

Integrating your brand’s approach to tackling customer experience as a whole – rather than making it the prerogative of just one team – can help you to deliver an experience that feels authentic, no matter how the customer interacts with you.

Set realistic expectations

Often, customer satisfaction can suffer when expectations aren’t met. If your customer believes a visit will take a certain amount of time and your field service agent takes longer, they are likely to view that experience as dissatisfying.

By setting expectations upfront for the time taken, arrival times, etc., your customers will know what to expect and adjust their view accordingly.

Use technology to spot issues before it’s too late

 Depending on your industry, using the Internet of Things-enabled devices can help you to see issues before they happen, and be pre-emptive in offering resolutions.

If your products are able to flag issues automatically to your field service experts, your ability to stop small issues from becoming larger ones will improve. Additionally, your customers will appreciate the proactive approach to meeting their needs.

Test and learn

Once you’ve gathered data and feedback on your present approach, test new approaches to providing field service to see if steps you take to improve work. Allow time for these approaches to be tested fully, but make sure you’re overlaying all the relevant data to see if your changes are having an effect.

Tailor the experience

 Sometimes, even if customers don’t strictly need a field service visit, their overall customer experience may benefit from sending a representative to complete work. That extra contact time with the customer – and the resulting good field service customer experience – can help to build a stronger relationship.

Invest in your frontline employees

Putting your frontline employees at the core of your efforts can drastically help to improve field service customer satisfaction and engagement. By taking their views into account and rewarding them against a metric of satisfaction, you will help your employees to feel more instrumental in your customers’ happiness and more engaged in their role. Employees’ willingness to engage, upsell and optimize their offering will improve when you demonstrate how important they are to you.

Providing coaching can also help to not only improve field service customer experience but to give your frontline teams better tools to deal with customer needs. By taking customer feedback and comparing it with frontline feedback, you can see where training might help and where frontline employees are already trying their best.

icons of how to improve frontline effectiveness

Your frontline employees can have a huge impact on a customer’s experience and the health of your relationship with them, so invest in and empower your people, and you’ll reap the rewards with improved satisfaction and stronger loyalty.

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